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September 29, 2023

That Texas Feeling…

Jess Williamson tackles the Texas Two-step

Jess Williamson finds comfort as the outsider and strength in the “other” on Time Ain’t Accidental, an often brutally poignant chronicle of the healing miles between rejection and renewal.

Less a “pandemic” album, more an awakening, Williamson navigates the crumbling structure of a relationship and the identity it imposed as she minds the gap between two literal and spiritual homes in Texas and California. 

It’s a dynamic that combines the glowing melody and ambient warmth of her 2020 album, Sorceress, with the liberating vulnerability of I Walked With You A Ways, Williamson’s critically lauded collaboration with Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield under the banner of Plains. 

“I know some people can write about other people or get inspired by something and then write a song, but for me, it really has to come from my own life for me to get inspired,” Williamson said in a July interview. “I noticed when I was writing this record, it really feels like sonically there is this Texas feeling that’s such a part of me, and then there’s this modern L.A. feeling which is also a part of me. Somehow the record is able to keep a foot in two different worlds.”  

Compelled by the Plains sessions, Williamson returned to producer Brad Cook’s Puff City Studios in Durham, North Carolina, to delve into her dual natures as a blue Texas poet and a pop-savvy lyricist, both heartbroken and challenged by an uncertain future. 

It’s a recurring notion addressed as a dance between “Lonestar Jess” and “Los Angeles Jess” that manifests in two stand-out tracks, “Tobacco Two Step” and “Topanga Two Step.”

“There’s this dance called the Texas Two-step, which everybody in Texas knows. If I’m dancing with someone who’s a good lead, I can follow along, but otherwise, I don’t really know it,” Williamson said.

“I was thinking about how in a metaphorical sense, at that time in my life especially, I felt like there was this dance that everyone else knew the steps to but I had never really caught on. I was just sort of struggling to keep up. 

“Both of those songs are about feeling a little bit like an outsider, but I think the beauty of feeling that way is that I got to know myself,” she said. “Sometimes, I think if you don’t feel like you fully fit in certain places, then you can ask yourself, ‘What is that makes me me? And what kind of friends do I wanna have? What kind of person do I wanna be? What kind of day do I wanna have?’ Those were some of the questions I was asking myself at that time.”

As she brings her latest album Time Ain’t Accidental to the live stage, Williamson and her band (guitarist Matt LaRocca, bassist Caleb Veazey and drummer Andrew McGuire) are conscious of but unfettered by the album’s arrangements, often choosing to dictate the pace to suit individual moments. Expect the full band in the Monday, Aug. 28 performance at Second Story.

“I always like to really play specifically to the room,” said Williamson. “You know, I’ve seen live shows where it just sounds like someone pushed play on the record, and there’s a beauty to that in that it’s really ‘pro,’ I suppose. But for me, I appreciate when things are a little different and there’s some surprises and it’s a little more rockin’ at times.”

Jess Williamson and her band play at the Second Story on Monday, Aug. 28. Show starts at 8pm, doors at 7. Tickets $25 at LittleSainthealdsburg.com. 


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